After a bronze medal triumph in the just concluded Asia Cup, Indian women recorded its third straight win against China by romping home with a 2-1 verdict in the second and return match of the FIH Pro League at Muscat on Tuesday.
With this win, Indian women recorded maximum six points from two games as they had won the first one on Monday with a 7-1 margin.
India, the newest entrants to the Women’s FIH Hockey Pro League, continued to make waves at the Sultan Qaboos Complex in Muscat as it demonstrated fast but controlled hockey to move to the top of the FIH Hockey Pro League.
Adding to the 7-1 win they had the day before, the 2-1 win wasn’t as goal-heavy as the previous one, what Indian women showed was an ability to play swift, attacking hockey without losing composure.
A lack of experience and a certain level of weariness seemed to beset the China women’s team right from the opening whistle of their second FIH Hockey Pro League match against India. Lost possession, misplaced passes and a reluctance to get back and defend contributed to its lacklustre first half performance.
India, by contrast, started the match with high levels of energy and an appetite for attacking play that rocked its opponents even further.
Pressure exerted by India on the China defence paid off quickly. A penalty corner in the third minute was converted with precision by Gurjit Kaur – to add to the goal she scored in India’s first FIH Hockey Pro League game against China.
China was fortunate not to be further behind at the end of the first 15 minutes. India created several scoring opportunities but these either flew wide of the target or were dealt with by Wu Surong in the Chinese goal.
In the second half, China tried to stage a comeback. It defended with more conviction and the Indian defence was no longer able to contain the China attack.
As India struggled to regain the free-flowing play of the first half, China began to make incursions into the Indian circle. A lovely pass that split the India defence left Wang Shumin with just Savita to beat. The Indian goalkeeper rushed forward but Wang was able to place the ball in the corner to restore both parity and her team’s confidence.
A series of penalty corners was India’s answer to the Chinese revival but each attempt was dealt with by a resolute defence.
The final quarter saw India attack with a renewed vigour. Monika was particularly visible as she led the team forward. The hard work paid off as India won a penalty corner almost instantly. Ekka Deep Grace saw her shot fly wide but the notice had been served – India were intent on all three points.
Wu Surong was quickly out of her goal to smother a fast break from Navneet Kaur . The Chinese ‘keeper, playing in only her seventh senior international, showed she was quickly adapting to the pace of hockey.
However, Wu Surong had no chance when Gurjit Kaur stepped up for yet another penalty corner. She made no mistake as she slotted the ball home to double her team’s score.
As the quarter counted down, India continued to pile pressure. Indian women were for a change transferring the ball across the pitch with confidence and the effect upon China was to deepen the levels of fatigue.
If India’s Head Coach Janneke Schopman was disappointed with anything about her team’s performance it was the fact that 33 circle penetrations only yield six shots at goal.
Monika, who played such an influential role in the match, was named Player of the Match: ‘I am really happy with the team performance over the two matches against China,’ she said. ‘It was great to play as a unit like we played at the last Olympics. We are playing with freedom and it is really enjoyable.’
The next FIH Hockey Pro League matches will take place on February 4 and 5 between Spain and England men and Spain and the Netherlands women.